When it comes to home networks, having everything wired in through Ethernet is preferable to using WiFi, both for reasons of connection reliability and as a matter of security. It’s well-known that WiFi passwords are relatively easy to crack and WiFi connections are subjects to all kinds of interference, both from obstacles commonly found in homes, such as walls, and from other WiFi signals.
If you intend to transfer data from one computer to the other, a wired connection is definitely better, since it offers more consistent performance compared to a WiFi connection. For example, in the real world, a 150 Mbps wireless dongle, which is the slowest available on the market, will be able to transfer data at around 2 to 3 MB/s, or around 24 Megabit per second.
But of course, most homes to not have Ethernet wires inside their walls, so wiring every single computer you may have in your home is out of the question in most cases, especially if you keep the modem in another room. This is why there are Powerline adapters, devices that connect to your electrical system and use that as a substitute for proper Ethernet wiring. I’ve had a powerline system in place for about a year and a half now and I’m not going back: it’s simply that good.
Now, powerline adapter generally come in pairs, and since I already had two, I needed to add only another one to connect two devices that are currently connected via WiFi. After looking for a bit, I decided to settle for the TL-WPA4220, since it has two Ethernet ports, which saved me about ten Euro for a five-port Ethernet switch.
The TL-WPA4220 comes in a regular cardboard box. Opening it reveals the powerline adapter itself sitting on a cardboard layer that can be raised to reveal a leaflet with the standard SSID and password for the WiFi extender, a “manual” that doesn’t tell you much of anything except the model number and, a bit hidden out of sight, a half-width CD which I can only assume contains the proper manual. I’m not exactly sure, because my DVD drive doesn’t seem to be able to read it, for some strange reason.
I must say that I’m rather disappointed with its packaging. Compared to that for my other powerline set, it’s very minimalistic and I’d even dare say useless. If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t know where to start and, to make matters worse, the mini CD is very easy to miss if you’re not paying close attention.
Setting it up
I’m glad to say that setting up the TL-WPA4220 is rather simple. Or rather, it is if you’ve ever used powerline adapters before. As I said, it doesn’t come with any tangible documentation and what there is is very easy to miss. After you plug the adapter to the mains, a power strip or a triple socket, you’re supposed to press the Pair button on the adapter your router plugs into, then press the Pair button on the TL-WPA4220. If the second and third light are static, the pairing process was successful.
I’m happy to report that the device played very nicely with my D-Link adapters, but your mileage may vary with adapters made by other manufacturers.
After the new adapter had paired, it was time to connect my desktop PC to it via an Ethernet cable. The computer connected happily to it without being too picky. I tested transfer speeds and saw no noticeable difference between transferring via Ethernet and via the powerline.
Since this model also doubles as a WiFi range extender, I decided to try that functionality too. I inserted the password that came in the small leaflet and… Nothing happened. Because, guess what? That password has nothing to do with the powerline. The right password can be found under the plug itself, on the underside of the unit. I’m as confused as anyone at this point, but I haven’t investigated more on this issue. I’ll probably get in touch with TP-Link and ask them for clarification, but I doubt I’ll get a reply from them.
Once I sorted that problem out, the connection proved to be rather reliable. Granted, it uses the older N300 standard, so you’re not going to transfer files at huge sppeds, but it’s more than capable to handle web browsing.
I’m very conflicted about the TL-WPA4220. On the one hand, it works rather well and suits my needs rather nicely. On the other, however, TP-Link didn’t put any effort in this product, with a CD that simply doesn’t work and no useful information inside the box.
I think you can safely skip this one.